The Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals has affirmed a district court's entry of sanctions against the Shavitz Law Group, one of the leading plaintiff-side FLSA firms in Florida. I reported on the district court decision in February. The case is Hamm v. TBC Corp. and Tire Kingdom, Inc. (Case No. 09-11221, August 25, 2009) (unpublished).
Shavitz apparently did not dispute that his assistant solicited two of the opt-in plaintiffs to join the case. Shavitz argued that the sanctions were excessive because the solicitation was conducted by a non-attorney and there was no evidence of attorney knowledge or ratification of the solicitation. The Eleventh Circuit found these facts "irrelevant" and ruled that the sanctions imposed by Judge Ryskamp were appropriate.
But the decision is not as bad for Shavitz's firm as he might have thought. The court notes that Shavitz interpreted the district court’s sanctions order as preventing Shavitz from representing any plaintiff in any case against any defendant, unless the plaintiff is one of the six named plaintiffs in the instant case or was first a co-worker of one of the named plaintiffs. That seems like a strained interpretation of Judge Ryskamp's order, and I have to wonder whether Shavitz was being disingenuous. Did Shavitz make a straw man argument in order to make Judge Ryskamp's order seem more draconian than it really was, so that the order would be reversed? Regardless, the Eleventh Circuit interpreted the order as only limiting Shavitz from representing opt-in plaintiffs in this particular case. "These were reasonable and limited sanctions that balanced the danger that current and future opt-in clients were impermissibly solicited against [Shavitz's] interest in representing lawfully-obtained clients," the court concluded.